My First Breakthrough with Rasta the Alexandrine Parakeet – Putting Happy on Cue

Posted by Jamieleigh on

Photo by Jamieleigh
Location: Athol, ID
Pictured with: Alexandrine parakeet “Rasta”

With our parrot stunt show ParrotFX finally ready for stage, and the photoshoot concluded for it (as well as the training) I have finally had the mental space for Rasta full-time. Today is the first day that Dave and I haven’t been completely and entirely CONSUMED with something ParrotFX-related. It feels freeing. Now, we have about 7 or less days to produce our magic show for Silverwood Theme Park and I sit in my dressing room listening to the crew put together our heavy magic props. Phew, that means I’m still not needed yet and I can write about my AMAZING BREAKTHROUGH with Rasta this morning!


As most of you know, Dave and I did 12 in-home consults back in January of this year for our One Day Miracles series. Just recently, Chet did 4 in home consults on his own and as he was interviewing me on our latest BirdTricks Cookbook project, we began talking training – of course.


And we began talking about the idea of customers putting Happy on Cue. Here’s everything I tried with Rasta before implementing this idea…


Photo by Jamieleigh
Location: Athol, ID
Shown: Alexandrine Parakeet “Rasta” going from one chair to another 


On my path of encouraging flight and for Rasta to ‘be a bird’… I tried setting up my own ‘musical chairs’. I encouraged Rasta to climb onto the top of a chair and set him away from his cage. I then took another chair and placed it leaning distance away – he leaned over and climbed onto it. I clicked, rewarded. He was excited.


Photo by Jamieleigh
Location: Athol, ID
Shown: Rasta enjoying a treat


I did this a few times and then sat on the couch and watched him, Rasta continued to climb back and forth on the chairs and I would walk over and give him a treat every time he did it.


Photo by Jamieleigh
Location: Athol, ID
Shown: Rasta with now 3 chairs to climb from and to 


Then I moved them a little further, added another chair for some change and waited. Again, when he couldn’t lean, he refused to put his wings out and lost his balance and down he went. Again unharmed physically but I knew his confidence was taking some serious dips.


I encouraged him to fly to his cage and rewarded him and put the chairs away – disappointed at how backwards it was all going all the sudden. I thought for sure he’d have no problem with short flights after the longer flights he was obviously capable of.


Photo by Jamieleigh
Location: Athol, ID
Shown: Alexandrine Parakeet “Rasta” looking at the almond on the chair 


I placed a chair close to his cage with almonds on it. I let him reach out and walk over onto it 1-2 times, then moved it further away just out of reach so he had to open his wings a bit and jump. Hoping he could get the courage to make the jump with his wings out to the chair… to my dismay, he stretched his neck as far as he could until he lost his balance and fell off the opening of his cage – completely missing the chair as well.


I knew this new fall was going to make Rasta even more cautious to fly and if anything, it would make him lose confidence rather than build it. (Don’t worry, it was a short fall and he was unharmed.)


Alright, maybe I was the problem in the equation. The next day I placed a chair about 5 feet away from his cage with pellets and almonds on it in the kitchen area where he usually flies past. I didn’t go out there. I waited. When I came back Rasta this is what I found…



And not that if my camera was on you would have been able to see it ANYWAY since the lights were out, but this is what followed…


I’ve found that Rasta puts himself away in his cage at night, even though the door remains open 24/7. He just feels secure in there so he stays there at night, and he REALLY wanted to sleep there at night which I was happy about because he got himself there!


Well, the next few days I practically lived at the theater – and Rasta didn’t show anymore exciting flight ventures. I began thinking maybe I needed to back track and go back to touch training which is what we had done at our in home consult with Rasta. But I know that Rasta would 1) attack the stick and 2) get mad at hearing the clicker.


I decided to implement the whole Happy on Cue idea. That’s when I realized maybe it wasn’t the CLICKER pissing Rasta off, maybe it was MY HAND giving him the treat. After all, Rasta HATES hands – he has severe hand hatred, he doesn’t trust them. So if the click means a hand is coming – no wonder he’s getting upset!


Photo by Jamieleigh
Location: Athol, ID
Pictured: Rasta enjoying his reward; an almond



I needed to put on HAPPY ON CUE, just like Chet talked about.


So this morning I cleaned house like crazy and I moved Rasta into the kitchen where he was in more light and closer to me. He showed immediate changes in behavior – constantly interested in what I was doing (after all, I was in the kitchen preparing dinner for later that evening) I brought out the string cheese and some almonds. I placed an empty steel dish on top of his cage and watched him. Once he relaxed and realized I wasn’t sharing anything I had (he tried talking for it) he sat calmly and scratched his head. I clicked and dropped a piece of almond in his dish. He looked at me, confused and ready to bite but when the hand didn’t come near he looked puzzled, walked over to his dish and fished out the treat; watching me curiously.


He walked back down and stared, then slowly reached up to scratch his head. Click! And a treat dropped in the dish. He rushed up to get it.


Once I realized he was catching on so fast, I pulled out my video camera:



Because Rasta is relaxed and happy while he scratches his head – literally NO aggressive signs or signals whatsoever – I chose that behavior to put on cue. That way it not only pairs scratching but it pairs scratching with a HAPPY feeling or emotion and I’m putting ALL of that on cue.


The big key for me was putting the treat in the dish – and eventually Rasta went up by the dish making it so that I would hand it to him, so I offered him small pieces of cheese so that I knew he was only interested in my treat moreso than his hatred of my hand doing the giving. This worked really well, especially since having him up there made it hard for me to drop anything in the dish at that point. (If you do this same thing with your bird one thing you can do is put BOTH dishes up there and that way if your bird stands by one you still have the other to drop the treat into without getting bit or triggering aggressive behavior/responses.)


Happy on Cue is the reason I had this amazing breakthrough with Rasta, I only wish I would have done it days ago!


This new technique is going to be speeding up my progress – I can already tell by how happy Rasta is about this new form of interaction!

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  • I love all these articals on this pretty alexanderine….. next week I finally am getting my baby alex & will be ready to go home with me. The breeder is amazing & has allowed me visits as he is finishing his weaning & I get to help a little. But I also have an african grey so I am used to phobic birds as he was rehomed because the lady wasn’t willing to work nor feed feed him properly, thanks to your courses he has become a lot happier & friendly & this should help me make my new baby trained & treated right so he becomes a great & happy buddy from the start! You guys are so motivating & I know I said it before but you really should try to start your own tv show… so more people can share your great expieriences & knowledge so people know what they are getting into & to decide if a bird is for them & what type would be a better fit. A lot of friends & fam want birds now because of me & I usually try to convince them a dog is a better choice or start with a bugie or conure…. most people don’t know what they are getting into & its only fair for birds of all species as no 2 are alike! Much love & respect!

    Ryan on
  • Hi,my connues Angel start the traning.:-]. Its woking. He touch Rouch stick ,i click then a treats wow!!

    marie on

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